Latvia starts removing Soviet monument in challenge to Russia

Many Latvians view the monument as a symbol of Soviet occupation. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: PEXELS

RIGA, LATVIA (BLOOMBERG) - Latvian authorities began work to dismantle a towering Soviet-era World War II monument, the latest potential flashpoint between the Baltic region and Russia.

The move comes less than a week after neighbouring Estonia removed a Soviet monument, which triggered what the government there called the biggest wave of cyber attacks in over a decade.

In Riga, the area around the 80-metre high monument will be fenced off as equipment is moved in, Mr Janis Lange, Riga's executive director of the nation's capital, told a press conference Monday (Aug 22).

He said authorities would avoid using explosives to bring down the structure.

Latvia, a member of the European Union and Nato, has joined Estonia in moving forward with plans to remove Soviet monuments across the country in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The monument complex in central Riga, which consists of the obelisk and two outsize sculptures - one of Red Army soldiers and another female figure representing the "motherland" - commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

Many in Latvia's ethnic Russian minority, a group that makes up about a quarter of the country's 1.9 million people, have embraced the monument, while many Latvians view it as a symbol of Soviet occupation.

The monument, built in 1985, only five years before Latvia reclaimed its independence, dwarfs the Estonian monument - a T-34 Soviet tank on a pedestal - that stirred tension last week.

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